For a lot of finance students, taking the CFA is always worth a discussion. But most students are wondering about the advantages and worrying about the additional workload. In this blog post, I am especially going to focus on how to manage the workload and how to prepare best when taking the CFA.
Although the CFA Institute advises you to start studying 6 months before taking the test, this is almost impossible and at least I would have forgotten most of the content I would have gone through at that point in time. When taking level one, Frankfurt School students will be in the lucky position to have already seen 75% of the content. Therefore, it is totally sufficient to start studying 3 to 4 months prior to taking the test.
In the beginning, you should get familiar with the structure of the books. Here I advise everyone to work with the Schweser Notes, as those already summarized the content from the original CFA books very well and also tell you what to focus on especially. The disadvantage of the original CFA books is that they mostly contain long texts that you would have to summarize yourself into bullet points. With Schweser Notes, the text is separated into very small paragraphs that are much easier to understand and remember. Once you got familiar with the topics, start working through the books and do as many exercises after each chapter as possible as they already give you a really good feeling how well you have understood the topic. As it is always a struggle to study continuously for the CFA while working and studying and taking exams, don’t worry, if you can’t read through all books. I finished around half of the books and still did fine on the test itself. The most important thing is that you read through the topics you might not be too familiar with.
The most important time to prepare for the tests starts around one month before you sit for the exam. At this point in time, you should start to memorize the summaries and formulas that you will find at the end of each chapter. These contain the most important concepts and knowledge you should have for the test.
During the last week, you should focus on old exams to practice under time constraints and to get a feeling for the kind of questions you might be asked. When I took the first practice exam I only got around 50%, so don’t panic if your result is not what you expected. Review the areas and concepts in which you were not as strong and try the next test. You will see that concepts repeat themselves and you will continuously improve.
Although studying for the CFA is possible while studying and working, everyone who wants to take the test should be aware, that it is still consuming a lot of time and there will not be too much free time left especially during the last month of preparing. Nevertheless, I think that taking the CFA Level 1 was a great experience and gave me a great overview about financial topics and even a deeper knowledge in areas as financial accounting. In the end, the hard work will pay off and I think everyone who managed to study hard and finally pass the test is very proud of what he or she has achieved so far.